Englewood Cliffs council approves hiring of 4 police officers
"As you all know, we had a reduction in our police force over the last few years," said Councilman Ilan Plawker, who serves as the council liaison to the Police Department. "Now we have four additional officers on the street."
The mayor and council approved hiring Frank Hechinger, who was a dispatcher in Hawthorne, Jae H. Lee, who served as an officer in Paterson and Pompton Lakes and speaks Korean and Spanish, Dimitrios Salogiannis, who served with the Palisades Interstate Parkway Police and speaks Greek and Kyle A. Ust, who served as a U.S. Air Marshall, on March 14.
Three of the officers can get right on the road while one has to finish approximately 40 percent of the police academy.
"They are wonderful, wonderful individuals," said Mayor Joseph Parisi, Jr. "I'm proud because I believe they are going to be a fine addition to your Police Department."
The department's staffing levels have dwindle from 29 in 2002 to 22 officers this year – the new hires bring the operation to 26. At one point last year, the force had 19 police officers.
Since October 2010, Police Chief Michael Cioffi implored the council to hire more officers because they were working 12-hour shifts and getting "burnt out."
"Crime rates have increased dramatically in surrounding communities," said Plawker. "Public safety is our number one concern. You [can] rest assure when you come to Englewood Cliffs you're safe and we have a relatively low crime rate and that's not an accident."
Although the four new hires come with experience, they are each getting paid a starting salary of $34,999. However, even with the added salaries, officials said the government will spend approximately $100,000 to $200,000 in overtime on the department. Last year, the governing body spent approximately $556,000 in police overtime.
Resident Jack Geyer brought up at the meeting that the Matrix Consulting Group's report said the Englewood Cliffs Police Department is staffed properly. He questioned if a study was done that said the borough needed more officers.
The borough hired the Matrix Consulting Group in March 2011 for $22,000 to examine the operational structure and staffing levels and make recommendations while also figuring out how to reduce overtime.
"None of those suggestions were taken by the council as a way to alleviate overtime," said resident Mary O'Shea, referring to the Matrix report.
"A number of different reports were submitted and the prior administration didn't like some of them," said Councilwoman Melanie Simon. "So it kind of got worked over until it was palatable to the previous administration."
Plawker said the prior administration, a Republican-controlled council, opted to hire Matrix instead of listen to the chief and police officers.
Like Plawker, Parisi believes the council should have listened to Cioffi and his staff and not hired Matrix.
"It was wrong," said Parisi. "It was money we should have spent for our police, not judging our police."